With today's business environment becoming increasingly global, most of us come across situations where we have to meet clients from different countries and cultures. Studying and understanding your client's culture, in-depth, may take a lot of time, but there are some generally agreed principles that are a part of the correct business salutation etiquette. It is very important for all of us to display good business etiquette as it plays an important part in ensuring success and professionalism in the workplace.
Salutations When Meeting
The acceptable way of greeting a client or someone from your workplace is a handshake, irrespective of the gender of the person. It is important that you make eye-contact with the person and have a genuine smile. It is important to remember that a handshake is not an alternate for using your voice. While you extend your hand, you should introduce yourself at the same time.
Avoid being too firm with your handshakes and remember that handshakes are a way to start a communication, not a show of physical strength. There are times, when you will not get it right, but you should not start feeling remorseful and instead, you should try to make up for it by offering a compliment or engaging the person in a short conversation.
The art of salutations would have been much easier if our interaction in a business environment was limited to people from our own country and culture only. Today, more and more companies want to be global and the mergers and acquisitions mean that you get to meet people from almost all parts of the world. Winning over your clients requires knowledge of their traditions so that you are able to impress them in first meeting itself. In this section, we will take a brief look at the business salutation etiquette in different cultures.
The accepted way of greeting in China is a slight bow as Chinese tend to avoid physical contact with the other person. A lot of Chinese people are comfortable with a handshake but remember that the handshake is not as firm as the one in western countries.
The business salutation in India is similar to that of the west with most business people shaking hands and introducing themselves. It is common for businesswomen to shake hands, however a kiss on the cheek is uncommon. Indians are sensitive and have strong family ties, so you may be involved in some conversations on family life, marriage, children, etc., which normally are considered as personal issues in the west.
Arabs greet each other by saying Assalaamu 'alaykum which translates to, "peace be upon you", however, Saudi Arabs don't expect people of other cultures (non-Muslims) to greet them in this fashion. Like other countries, a formal handshake is the acceptable way of greeting each other. Businessmen can shake their hands with businesswomen, but the man has to extend the hand first.
The business salutation in Russia is similar to other western countries, but the handshake is much more firm, almost a bone-crusher. When shaking hands with a woman, the handshake is less firm. You can introduce yourself using only your surnames, but you should find out if your Russian counterpart uses any titles.
Although most of the Germans introduce themselves with a handshake, however, who shakes whose hand can sometimes get a bit perplexing. The norm is that a person who is at a higher position will take the initiative to extend his hand and introduce you to all the sub-ordinates. If you have joined a group of people, then the onus is on you to extend your hand and introduce yourself to each one of them. It is considered good to shake hands with older members first as it shows a sense of respect.
Business letters are formal in nature and there are some set standards that have to be followed while communicating with business associates. One of the commonly used salutations is 'Dear', which is followed by the name to whom the letter or e-mail is addressed to. In situations where you don't know the name of the person and the gender, you can address the letter/e-mail as
- To Whom it May Concern
- Dear Sir/Madam
It is important that you close the letter in a professional manner. Some of the common salutations to end a letter are
- Kind Regards
- With Appreciation